Are Airbus A380’s too big for its crews to deliver a good cabin service experience?

Emirates A380-800 A6-EDFDubai based Emirates airline is the world’s largest operator of the Airbus A380 superjumbo, and has orders with Airbus S.A.S. for 90 aircraft. Airline President Tim Clark recently told Reuters in an interview.

“We would like some more [Airbus A380 superjumbos] but we are going to run short of space,””120 was the baseline figure that the planners worked to get where we needed to be, but we couldn’t order that amount because it was too many for here so 90 was a compromise.”

Without a doubt, the aircraft is a huge draw for passengers who are lining up in droves to experience the aircraft. This in turn is allowing not just Emirates, but all operators of the A380, to charge as much as 25% premium on fares.

However, a lack of space at Dubai airport is not the only space problem for Emirates. The high customer attraction which is filling up the behemoth super-jumbos to the brim, is turning into a cabin service nightmare for its cabin crews.

“There are simply just too many passengers for the crew to handle, even in premium classes”

laments a passenger.

Yesterday, my parents flew business class from Bangalore to London via Dubai on the carrier. The first leg Bangalore to Dubai was on the smaller Airbus A330, while the Dubai London leg was on the A380.

Commenting on the Bangalore-Dubai leg, my father, a seasoned traveller in his own right, gushed

“The service was just superlative. One had to just raise their eyes, let alone a hand, and one of the cabin crew was by your side.” “The food was excellent, even the coffee was great.” “All the way from the chauffeur drive home pick-up service, the airport experience, the complete flight experience was just great.”

But on the Dubai London leg, he too confirmed what other passengers have been saying. The aircraft is excellent with previously unknown levels of cabin comfort, quietness, etc., but the cabin crew are simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of passengers on a full flight.

“The plane is great. It is so big and so quiet, it is like a cathedral. At times were were not even sure we were flying.” he said. [The Emirates pilots complain the A380 is too quiet to sleep]

Commenting on the service, he said

“The business class cabin was chocker block full and it was simply too much for the crew to handle. Its not like the cabin crew were taking it easy; they were on their toes, non-stop, throughout the flight, but there were just too many passengers and service levels suffered.” “We all [the passengers] had to wait up to 30 minutes for even a glass of water. I felt I was in economy class.”

Delivering a telling blow he said

“I am glad I am not flying the A380 on the return leg.” “The service is so much better in a smaller plane.” [He will be flying a Boeing 777-300ER on the London Dubai return].

One can be sure that the airframe manufacturer, Airbus, has done extensive research on the operational dynamics and ergonomic elements of in-flight service, but there is a limit given the size of the aisles and galleys.

Can this service issue be solved by adding more cabin crew? or is the Airbus A380 simply just too big for a good smooth cabin service experience? Comments are welcome.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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